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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

so-so straight to video thriller

Author: FilmFlaneur from London
8 January 2003

With its stereotypical plot, few strong characters, one or two sexy female co-leads, set pieces and bittersweet resolution, Protection is exactly the sort of film done better by the thriller factories of Hong Kong and Japan, where mood and style frequently transcend standard genre content. That's not to say that director John Flynn hasn't been successful in such tough territory before, notably with the successful and hardboiled The Outfit (1974), then Bestseller (1987). But too often he has churned out such cinematic tosh as Brainscan (1994) - although in fairness the recent Final Guardian has garnered excellent feedback. This film stars one of the lesser Baldwin brothers, Stephen, in the central role. As Salavatore ('Sal') Veronica, a mobster in enforced hiding, Baldwin is suitably intimidating being menacingly husky and monolithic in equal measure. (He also sports an odd sub-Travolta haircut, ending in a ducktail.) Having squealed on his Mafia friends he is now ensconced within the Federal Witness Protection Programme with his wife and sonin a safe house by the shore, trying to avoid the inevitable contract on his head.

Until now, Sal's life has been single-mindedly devoted to ruthlessness and danger, and he quickly finds his enforced existence unsatisfactory. "Life here is too easy." He intones regretfully. "It makes you lose your instincts - go soft." Those instincts are to carry on where he left off, and soon he is taking an active interest in a housing project, begun by nice-but-naïve neighbour, real estate agent Ted (Peter Gallagher) as well as conducting an affair. Even with that haircut, women, it seems, find Sal's testosterone-fuelled business drive and generally unblinking manner in conversation irresistible. That Sal's idea of 'laying low' is not everyone's quickly becomes apparent. The suggestions and warnings from the Protection Programme representative (here seen more often than not as a vaguely-threatening-someone wrapped in a big overcoat) are ineffectual. After taking a share in Ted's pet dream of housing for the poor, Sal promptly approaches Lars Lujak (Aron Tager), the toughest boss in town, for finance. He also menaces a private eye tracking his romantic liaison, travels to Las Vegas for a raunchy few days with a bewildered Ted, and noisily breaks up a strike at the project's building site. Throughout all this his decision just to abbreviate his original name, rather than change it completely to avoid discovery, is less than convincing. Not surprisingly, his old comrades in crime discover where their stool pigeon is holed up and promptly send a warm reception. Meanwhile, Lujak tries to muscle in on the housing deal...

There are few surprises in Flynn's film, shot rather as if it expected to rush straight to video from the first. Although it gains somewhat from location filming, there's nothing sufficient to lift proceedings from the rut of lurking violence and macho play-offs, all part and parcel of the warring hoodlums sub genre. Even the set pieces (the initial restaurant shoot out, Sal's strike breaking and the final confrontation in the park) seem staged half-heartedly. Perhaps the director, sensing that the material was hardly inspiring, determined on just creating a modest yarn with a minimum of fuss. It's certainly the type of movie that would look better in old-fashioned black and white.

Sal's cold dalliance with the wife of a neighbour, which flares briefly - seeming as if it might thereby introduce a subplot laying bare his emotional barrenness - fades away in a final moment of bathos. Embracing his conquest, he releases her back to the bosom of her family saying "Your husband - *he's* the tough guy. You are lucky to have each other." Such words, from one who has been so self-centred throughout, sound unconvincing, to say the least. There's a echoing incongruity in Sal's own marriage. His wife Gina (Katie Griffin) has a lot to say at the beginning of the film about his attitude and commitment. As the film proceeds, Sal risks all in a high profile business venture with a well-known local underworld figure, even taking Ted away for a raunchy boy's weekend in Vegas. Gina's silence on the matter is baffling, as is her mute acceptance of the final relocation.

Sal's new partner, Ted, provides a contrast to the mobster. Sal is selfish, aggressive, and cool. Ted is none of those things, and although his business career is borne along on the tide of Sal's vaulting ambition, his doubts grow with each succeeding phase. It is he who threatens to bring in the DA when the building project encounters corruption, oblivious to the likely consequences. Strangely, although Sal shows no particular warmth for his new friend, seeing him as one more assistant on the path of self-aggrandisement, Ted conceives a loyalty, and a proximity, which leads him close to death when the hitmen finally come to town. Quickly out of his depth (a fact articulated by the loathsome Lujak, who ironically faces a similar demotion in the eyes of the arriving killers) Ted is eventually as redundant as a 'knife brought to a gunfight', to use Sal's ominous phrase at Vegas.

If Protection has a point to make, then it is about the good use to which evil can be channelled. For whatever reason, Sal works hard to make Ted's altruistic building project a reality, hopefully to benefit the poorer families of the district. On the tough guy's departure, things are well underway, even though the continued existence of Lujak throws a shadow over future proceedings. Ironically, it is Sal's uncharacteristic failure to shoot the fat crook, which leaves this final question mark. When he is driven off to his own uncertain future, he leaves Ted behind to pick up the pieces. Sal's presence has been shown a blessing and curse but by the time the final credits roll, this viewer at least remained largely indifferent to which it was.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Montes needs no Protection

6/10
Author: aidanhell
27 May 2002

Protection is an interesting, albeit cliched mobster-on-the-run drama. Its got some tense scenes, but it works because the supporting cast infuse the flick with some energy and interest. Especially Olga Montes as the spider woman Vanessa, who steals her scenes from under everyone's noses. (man, she's got temperature)...which begs the question-what else has she done? It would be cool to see her in some more interesting films.

A good rental for Baldwin fans.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A watchable film with an excellent performance from Stephen Baldwin

Author: thealexanders from Victoria, Australia
16 January 2002

When a mobster is in trouble with other mobsters for turning prosecution witness against them, the FBI need to step in and provide protection. This is the case for Stephen Baldwin and his wife and son in this movie. Baldwin plays an excellent role as the bad guy needing protection. He is well supported by Peter Gallagher, his new found business partner and neighbor when they are relocated in another city. Unfortunately for Baldwin's character, trying to live a normal life without using his gangster attitude is not easy. This movie is worth a look.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Men of Means would have been a more appropriate movie title

7/10
Author: Ed-Shullivan
28 February 2014

This movie's title Protection, was a poor title choice for the producers to decide upon. Although the movie plot surrounds an ambitious mobster named Sal, played to perfection by Stephen Baldwin, Sal is a ruthless killer that eventually turns states evidence against the mob to avoid doing any serious time in a state prison. After ratting out on the mob Sal is forced to move out of state, assume a new alias, and give up his choice of trade, which has been the only way of life that he knows and thrives upon. Like most people, we choose a path in life at an early age and very few of us can change who we are. Sal is no different, he loves to not only feel the thrill of getting in to some heavy action, no, Sal is THAT guy who thrives on controlling the action.

Sal is a no holds barred, kill or be killed, don't get in my face type of gangster. He has always been a womanizer but he has also been a good provider, a husband, and a father. There is one particular scene in the movie where Stephen Baldwin's bravado, his classic droopy eyes, his calm and smooth voice show us who Sal really is. The scene happens mid-way through the film when Sal comes home and catches his 12 year old son Mario, playing "gangster" with his next door neighbor's son and they are shown taking turns holding Sal's gun and playfully shooting each other as if they were real gangsters. Unfortunately Sal walks in on their little gun toting game and he tells the neighbour's kid very coolly to "go home", and the next door neighbor's kid darts out of Sal's bedroom. Fortunately the audience does not have to witness one of the kids accidentally shooting the other kid. Sal's son Mario knows he is in for one serious beating, but cool Sal takes the gun away from Mario and just softly places his open hand on his son's face and tells Mario. "You know I keep that gun to protect us don't you?" Mario responds fearfully, "yes". Then Sal asks Mario "and you will never touch the gun again, will you?" Again Mario responds "yes", and then very calmly Sal allows his son to leave the bedroom untouched. The scene is a turning point for Sal, as he realizes that Mario will grow up just like him, if he doesn't change his ways, and if he truly loves his son and wants him to survive past his 21st birthday he will need to provide a new influence for his son to follow.

The other main character in the film is Sal's new neighbor, his real estate agent named Ted, played by Peter Gallagher, who helps Sal and his wife Gina find their new dream home by the water. Ted is also a good family man, a hard working real estate agent who has big dreams of building a new family neighborhood with parks and pools and a new shopping plaza located on the building site. But poor Ted does not have the financial backing to make his dream come true. That is, until Sal hooks up with the local sleazy crime boss a tough guy named Lujak, played by Aron Tager, who agrees to front the seed money to start digging the massive development. And just like that Sal is back in the game. He loves the action, he starts cheating on his wife once again, and he has a banker financing the rest of the project based on an agreed upon time line to finish the development.

Well the local crime boss Lujac gets greedy and he wants to ensure his hand is greased with the local unions, heavy equipment and the excavation company. Ted, (Peter Gallagher) is outraged that his initial investor Lujac, the crime boss, thinks he can just muscle his way in and suck them dry. Ted informs the crime boss he would rather cease building his dream development, and go bankrupt before turning over the reigns to the greedy Lujac. Ted tells Lujac he would go to the District Attorney with a claim of extortion if Lujac doesn't back off.

Sal is impressed with Ted's continued pee and vinegar and he soon realizes that there are good men like Ted in his life that can be trusted and who carry good values that evolve around family, friends and community. Sal advises his new friend Ted, to let him handle the business of dealing with scum like Lujac. This is where the very well respected director John Flynn shows why he was selected to direct this film. The story is really about the two main characters, Sal the mobster with a dream of running a criminal empire, and Ted the real estate agent with a dream of building a beautiful family community in his own neighborhood.

Director John Flynn shows us how two men from very different backgrounds can influence one another and soon meld in to the best of each man. I think a more appropriate name for the film would have been something like "MEN OF MEANS", and I truly believe that film viewers in general pay too much attention to a film's title than to a films content. This was director John Flynn's last film before he sadly passed away. I believe the alternate title Men of Means would have proved to be a more meaningful title for the movies exposure but also a nice epitaph for the classy director John Flynn, better known for his other crime themed films such as The Outfit, Lockout, Bestsellers, or Out for Justice. If you don't know who director John Flynn is, then pick up a few of the aforementioned films and you won't be disappointed. I give Protection a solid 7 out of 10 rating. We miss you dearly John Flynn.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A watchable film with an excellent performance from Stephen Baldwin

Author: thealexanders from Victoria, Australia
16 January 2002

When a mobster is in trouble with other mobsters for turning prosecution witness against them, the FBI need to step in and provide protection. This is the case for Stephen Baldwin and his wife and son in this movie. Baldwin plays an excellent role as the bad guy needing protection. He is well supported by Peter Gallagher, his new found business partner and neighbor when they are relocated in another city. Unfortunately for Baldwin's character, trying to live a normal life without using his gangster attitude is not easy. This movie is worth a look.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Made for Cable - Total Trash

Author: Damien Street from Reno Nevada
18 April 2003

You think this film is about the mob? Nossir. It's actually a tawdry suburban tale of a struggling property developer who just after being turned down by the bank (nonsense Hollywood stereotype that banks are conservative) who gets a new neighbor who is in the mob.

How cool I can hear you think.

It's not. It's predictable of course. The mobster is a lady's man who gets real friendly with all his Presbyterian neighbors' wives.

Why has the hoodlum moved into the quiet suburbia? Witness Protection of course. Now there's a well-worn cinematic cliche.

The whole production is cliche corner. No degree of predictability stays unexplored in this one.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Well Written

Author: James Adam (jimadamgolfer) from Baltimore, Maryland
14 March 2003

The lower budget crime movie today is generally full of ignorant low-lifes, shoot outs every 5 minutes from weapons of mass destruction and dialogue consisting of hundreds of F bombs. Simply put, nothing of any intelligence can be expected or received.

Thankfully, Protection is different. While it is not lacking in shoot outs and other violence, Protection actually includes an intelligent script and people who can act. It leaves out most of the profanity as well racial diversity. I don't recall a single Black, Hispanic or Asian person in the film. Stephen Baldwin does a great job and is in almost every scene. This is still a lower budget film that will slip below most peoples' radar.

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